To me the breed of the dog is largely irrelevant; almost all dogs have a good sense of smell and are more than capable of finding pigs. It’s up to you. What kind of dog you want to hunt? Choose the type of dog that you like, you’ll be happier with it and probably put more effort into its training. When I choose a pig dog I dont categorise it in terms of being a finder or holder. I like dogs that will both find and hold cleanly. There are three factors that I consider when getting a dog – parents, confirmation and hunting drive.
There is no doubt that a lot of good pig dogs had parents that have never seen a pig and yes, hunting is instinctive to most dogs but its important to me that the parents of any dog I select work and work well. It probably takes 12 to 18 months to train a pup to ute-find on its own. When you add up the time, money and patience required, a new dog is a big investment. And you want it to work. Thats why I choose pups from the best working parents I can find, there is no guarantee that the dog will work but if both the parents are good solid workers your chances are maximised. Im wary of getting pups from breeders that only work the father and not the bitch or vice versa. Sure, she may have grabbed a pig or two that another dog caught but what is the full story? Did she bite pigs on the leg? Was she aggressive around other dogs? Hard to control? Unless the both parents are hard and regular workers from someone you can trust give them a miss. You may have to wait a little longer or travel a bit further to get the pup you want but believe me it will be worth it in the long run.
I said before that the breed of the dog is unimportant. Well I think that is true to a certain extent. There are many breeds and crosses of dog used to catch pigs and stating that one breed of dog is better than any other is a quicker way of getting into a fight in a bush pub than arguing about the one or two shot rule on the pool table. Regardless of what breed or type of dog you choose confirmation (shape and size) is important. Too small a dog and it will lack the leg speed and power of the larger breeds. Too lightly built and you compromise holding ability. Too large and it will overheat quickly and lack the agility to chase and corner effectively. Its a fine balance. I’ve had most types and shapes of dogs and I believe that a dog with a body about the size and shape of a Dalmatian is just about ideal.
Just for the record the dogs that I prefer are Wolfhound and Staghounds crossed with Boxer and Bullmastiff or something of that sort. If you get a good medium sized, three quarter staghound bull mastiff or boxer cross about 30 to 35 kg that is agile and with plenty of leg I reckon they are very hard to beat.
If you in the business of creating a good ute-finder then without question the most important quality your dog must have is the will and drive to hunt. A dog will never find pigs without it. Its the want and need to find and chase game that makes a good Ute finder and its the extra commitment and determination to hunt that separates the good finders from the exceptional ones.
Almost all dogs have this instinct to hunt and chase game. Normally its a case of turning it down rather than bringing it out of a pup, but more on that later. Its this drive that makes dogs you wouldn’t normally associate with pig hunting pretty good finding dogs. Border Collies, Kelpies and Pointers can all make excellent ute-finders, some say the best. Im certainly not going to argue against them. But when you choose a Ute finder from traditional pig dog breeding how do you know if its got this drive? If you are choosing a pup less than six months old then its really important that you look closely at the parents. I reckon that there are a couple of things you can look for in the parents that help you decide if their pups are worth buying. Firstly, have a look at the parents, are they nervous or aggressive? Ask how often the parents are worked. The more they are hunted the better the chance is that they are good, hard workers.
Ask if the parents have been bred before, if so how did the pups go? Did they work at a young age? If this is their first litter then ask how quickly the parents started working. I think that this is the most important question that you can ask of a pig dog breeder. I’ve had lots of dogs over the past few years and had more than my quota of dogs that didn’t make the cut. Without exception all of these underachievers took a lot to get started. Some hunters will make excuses for pups and say its just the type of dog; they dont come good until there 18 months old. I couldn’t disagree more. Just as all the failures that I have had didn’t work as young dogs all the good dogs I have owned or worked have shown some interest in pigs from the first couple of times they are taken out, normally about six months of age. You may be thinking that this is fine if all you need is a pig holding machine built like a fridge.
But it seems to me that the drive, instinct and hunting qualities that make a dog want to hold or bail pigs at a young age are the same qualities that make excellent ute-finders.
Choosing a young dog up to about 12 months of age from a breeder or hunter requires some care. My advice is to go to someone you either know or someone that you trust. When considering a young dog ask the same questions that you would when buying a pup, plus a few more. Has the dog had any work? How did the dog perform? Did the person selling the dog breed it? If not who did?
Buying a dog that is a bit older allows you to assess its character more fully than a young pup. Get the breeder to let the dog out and have a run around. Does it tear around crazy like it hasn’t had a run for weeks? Does it runaround, do its thing and come over to you or the owner for a pat? If the dog is only socialising with the other dogs in the yard or is timid (not just shy there’s a difference) give it a very big miss.
Does it run around and then jump up on the back of a Ute. If it does that’s a good sign. Ask the breeder if you can take the dog for a drive up the road, preferably around some stock or kangaroos. Once you’re driving along does the dog stand up and sniff the air or look scared or lay down immediately? If the dog is an older pup say 6- 12 months old what does it do when you drive past stock? You’re looking for pups that are interested, have a sniff, work out that those things are stock and none of their business and look away. This shows that the pup is keen and will hunt but knows the difference between game and stock.
So ok you’ve got your great new pup with heaps of ability.
Its parents are great workers and it really looks the goods. All of that ability is not much use unless the young dog knows what it is supposed to be looking for. Thats the part where you come in.